News and Events

Islamic Wills in the UK: Legal Requirements and Advice

View profile for Saqib Ahmad
  • Posted
  • Author
Islamic Wills in the UK: Legal Requirements and Advice

With the month of Ramadan having come to a close and the month of Dhul-Hijah right around the corner, now is a good time to consider making a will. Not only is it a good idea for the thousands of British Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca, but any Muslim who has wealth or property. Indeed, it is obligatory for a Muslim leaving behind some wealth to have a will; it is important that Muslims approach the matter in a way that is compliant with both the Shariah as well as UK law.

This article aims to summarise some of the rules of Islamic inheritance and explain how to make it valid within the UK.

The rules of wasiyyah

In the UK, a person who makes a will (also known as a testator) has complete freedom as to how they can distribute their estate. Whether they gift their estate to their children, or their second cousin twice removed, the law is largely unconcerned about who benefits under the will.

Under the rules of wasiyyah (Islamic inheritance), a testator does not have the same freedoms. Their estate is divided into 3 shares; 2/3s are subject to fixed share rules. The testator only has freedom as to how the remainder (the last 1/3) is then distributed.

The fixed share rules are extensive and apply based on who survives the testator. There are 6 beneficiaries set out under the fixed share rules who must earn a share of the estate (if they are alive). These are the father, mother, husband, wife, daughter and son of the deceased. Should none of these people be alive, the rules become a little bit more complicated and more remote family members (such as grandparents and uncles/aunts) may earn a share.

Significantly, the remainder that a testator does have freedom over cannot be distributed to a beneficiary under the fixed share rules. In Islam, the testator is prevented from preferring one son over another (for example) using this 1/3 share. Therefore, the 1/3 share often goes to charity (as sadaqa) or to a more remote family member.

How do you make a valid Islamic will in the UK?

As the Shariah is concerned with how the estate is distributed, while UK law is not, making a valid ‘Islamic will’ is fairly simple.

So long as the conditions that make a will valid are present (signed, witnessed, mental capacity, revoking previous wills), a Muslim testator can simply request that their estate is distributed in accordance with the Shariah and the fixed share rules. This can be done by setting out the specific means by which the estate is to be distributed or by reference to the relevant verses of the Holy Quran, which establish the fixed share rules.

Such a will would be valid in the UK and would allow its executors to distribute the estate in accordance with the Shariah.

For a Muslim, it is haram (forbidden) for their estate to not be distributed in accordance with the Shariah. Therefore, having a will in this country is vital for any Muslim, especially those making a pilgrimage on what promises to be a very difficult Hajj. 

How can we help?

Here at Birkett Long, we have a highly regarded and experienced team that can assist at every step of the will writing process, including assisting in the production of Islamic wills.

If you need to make a will, would like to amend your current one, or want advice on tax or inheritance, I can be contacted on 0330 818 2949 or via  email to discuss this further.

The contents of this blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this blog.